Darien analyzing data to address low science score on CAPT
The 2010 Connecticut Academic Performance Test revealed that a smaller percentage of 10th-grade students were able to meet the goal level. School departments have mobilized to assess the data and generate a plan to address the reasons why students did not perform as well.
Superintendent of Schools Stephen Falcone said the departments are analyzing the data to see what portions of the test impacted students' scores. Once the data is analyzed, the departments will work on implementing an action plan, Falcone said.
"The test is more of an integrated science as opposed to just the courses we teach like biology," Falcone said.
In order to improve the science scores, Falcone said teachers will work on giving students a background in other courses like chemistry, even if they are taking an earth science course.
Falcone said the results for this year's CAPT scores was similar to past results, but the science scores were never as low.
"I was surprised because it hadn't been that low," Falcone said.
Falcone also pointed out that the test scores don't necessarily reflect the possibility that some students only missed the goal level by a point or two.
"It could be kids missed very closely," Falcone said, "of those students who passed or didn't pass, how close were they?" Falcone asked.
At the moment, Falcone said teachers are working on digging into the data to see where the problem areas are and then a plan will be put into place to address those areas.
"We have to look at where the issues were," Falcone said, "were they with reading, content, etc."
Principal of Darien High School Dan Haron said one of the contributing factors to why a lower percentage of students scored at the goal level was due to the way the high school structures their science curriculum.
"We require that every ninth-grader take biology and then their sophomore year, students have a choice of either chemistry or earth science," Haron said. "Once students are juniors and seniors, we want to give them the choice of what science class they take."
Because the CAPT tests cover four areas of science, biology, chemistry, earth science and physics, students usually only have two out of the four required subjects covered in their class, Haron said.
"It puts us at an obvious disadvantage," Haron said.
Haron pointed out that many schools in the district require students to take general science courses to prepare them for the tests.
In order to address the lower score in science overall, Haron said their is talk of possibly condensing the material covered in the CAPT tests into a one week marathon review.
"Based on the preliminary data, we need to do a better job of summarizing some of the content on the test," Haron said.
However, Haron acknowledged that the high school and the board of education were aware that scores would be lower based on the structure of the science curriculum; they just weren't expecting the score to be as low as it was.
Haron stressed that the scores that are often published are not an average score for the students.
"The scores that are published represent the percentage of students who met the goal level which is determined by the state. The scores do not reflect the average test score for the students," Haron said. Some parents believed that the scores were based on an average of all the students tests, Haron said.
Despite having scored lower on the tests than anticipated, Haron said parents are not pushing to get the high school to change its curriculum.
"I went over the scores with parents and after our meeting, there were parents who told me they are glad the students aren't forced into a specific course," Haron said.
It isn't all bad news either when looking at Darien High School's CAPT scores.
"If you look at the AP scores in science, we're stellar," Haron said, "and that's where it really shows."